Sunday, August 23, 2009

Problem Solving Through Integration and Sustainability

Tom Friedman provides some interesting thought in his Connecting the Dots commentary in the New York Times. He begins by describing an experience deep in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, where he walked with Map Ives — the 54-year-old director of sustainability for Wilderness Safaris. He was astounded by the information that Ives was able to glean from his observations of nature.

“If you spend enough time in nature and allow yourself to slow down sufficiently to let your senses work, then through exposure and practice, you will start to sense the meanings in the sand, the grasses, the bushes, the trees, the movement of the breezes, the thickness of the air, the sounds of the creatures and the habits of the animals with which you are sharing that space,” said Ives. Humans were actually wired to do this a long time ago.

Unfortunately, he added, “the speed at which humans have improved technology since the Industrial Revolution has attracted so many people to towns and cities and provided them with ‘processed’ natural resources” that our innate ability to make all these connections “may be disappearing as fast as biodiversity.”
Ives comments reminded me of farmers that I know, although sadly, the farmers that I used to know - the farmers such as my father, those from a previous generation, were much better at this than many farmers are today. Like other 'modern' farmers and gardeners, I rely on technology for my soil tests, am intrigued by GPS mapping, and am continually checking the weather radar for predictions. Nevertheless, I doubt that I will ever know as much about the soil in my garden as my father could assess from picking up a handful of dirt and running it slowly through his fingers. And, his weather predictions had a better accuracy rate than most climatologists.

That is not to say that I am in any way anti-technology. I am, after all, a blogger, and life without the internet - well, let's not even go there. I suppose, you see, I want it all.

And, something similar to this marks the point of Freidman's column -
We’re trying to deal with a whole array of integrated problems — climate change, energy, biodiversity loss, poverty alleviation and the need to grow enough food to feed the planet — separately. The poverty fighters resent the climate-change folks; climate folks hold summits without reference to biodiversity; the food advocates resist the biodiversity protectors.

They all need to go on safari together.